In honor of Valentine’s Day…
“Closely related to appropriation is another word, love. Einstein said, “Love is a better master than duty.” This is often forgotten in many of the modern theories of education. Take cognitive science, for example. I don’t think the people who gave it that name meant any harm, but in psychology, cognitive means thinking as opposed to feelings, emotions, the unconscious, the personality, the motivation. Cognitive science divides off thinking as a separate thing. If you read the reports and look at the kind of work that is funded by government agencies, it’s cognitive. But they’re wrong.
They’re wrong because the reason you need all those heavy-handed instructional methods is that you’re trying to teach people something they don’t want to learn. When they want to learn it, if you create the right intellectual environment, they learn it quickly and easily. So you can get 100 times more mileage by creating those conditions in which the children will appropriate knowledge by falling in love with it.
And there’s more. I had an interesting experience yesterday, a very touching experience, in a school here in Sofia. I visited a school in which children were using computers and making programs. At the end, they said they had questions and wanted to interview me. One of the questions was, “Do children anywhere else have such a great teacher?”
I was so moved, I didn’t know what to say and I said something very clumsy and awkward. But I thought, “Isn’t that wonderful?” There was something about the kind of work they were doing that made them feel this way about their teacher. Of course their teacher is a wonderful person, but we can create educational environments that bring out the love for the teacher and the love for everyone else there. Above all, even beyond the love for the knowledge, is this principle: If you love what you learn, you’ll get to love yourself more. And that has to be the goal of education, that each individual will come out with a sense of personal self-respect, empowerment, and love for oneself, because from that grow all the other loves: for people, for knowledge, for the society in which you live.”
Papert, S. (1990) A Critique of Technocentrism in Thinking About the School of the Future. M.I.T. Media Lab Epistemology and Learning Memo No. 2″ (September 1990)
A version of this piece was published as “M.I.T. Media Lab Epistemology and Learning Memo No. 2” (September 1990). Its content was based on a talk presented at Children in an Information Age: Opportunities for Creativity, Innovation, and New Activities (Sofia, Bulgaria, May 1987).